Our food truck’s name “Amo La Vita” translates to “I love life”. Jo and I chose this name because it reminds us of our inner mission to love what we do. This ethos might sound a little selfish, or even hippy and idealistic, but in order to love our lives we need to be creating a world that we are proud of. At the end of every day I want to stop and think “I love life” and feel a sense of accomplishment with what I have achieved. This sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? But I wonder how many people really finish every day thinking that they have given their all and are 100% proud of everything that they have done?
A few years ago I obtained what I thought was my dream job, I was the head chef of a restaurant and, in my eyes, that meant that I had made it. It was a career goal that I had been working towards for 9 years and I thought that it was what I wanted. From the outside you may think that the head chef has control, that his restaurant is a representation of him, but that is far from the truth. Unless the restaurant is 100% owned and operated by the chef, there are always other people who make decisions too. The chef is a leader but he is not in control, he can try to influence the owner’s choices, but he does not have the final say. This is something that, even from the inside, I didn’t fully realize until I had the prized position and it is what ultimately made me realize that being a head chef of someone else’s restaurant was not for me.
Achieving this role I was thinking of the progression in my career, but not in my skills as a chef. There is an overwhelming number of cuisines and ingredients in the world, and as someone who is looking to master his chosen craft, I want to continue to learn as much as I can. I learnt many managerial skills in my new role but didn’t have the opportunity to push myself as a cook. Additionally, whilst the food I was producing was popular, well received and good quality, it wasn’t the type of food that I am passionate about. This was when I had the realization that, to be truly happy, I need to be proud of my achievements everyday and I need to strive for perfection. I decided to start my own food truck, to give me the freedom to shape a life that i would love. When I told my girlfriend Jo about my dream, she decided she wanted to be a part of it too, and Amo la Vita was born!
Our aim from this venture is not to be rich, but to be happy. With this in mind Jo and I chose to serve a cuisine that we love to cook, and to eat. Read more about why Italian or what pasta means to me. Once we had made this one integral decision, we realized how good it felt to imagine a life where we could be at peace whilst working, and do everything on our own terms. We decided to try and put everything that we care about into one business. If we can love what we’re doing, it shouldn’t feel like work, and it will be a life that we don’t need a holiday from.
We are both passionate about sustainability and deeply care about where every part of a dish is sourced from, I gain a great pleasure from knowing that my impact on this world is as low as possible and if I am to spend most of my waking hours at work then this is a major part of my impact. Working for myself, I know that I can have complete control over where all of our products originate from, and can do everything in my power to ensure that we are avoiding causing cruelty or destruction.
Our dedication to our values has pushed us to shun the norm of food truck building and common small business logic and strive to do what we are passionate about. We hope that this dedication shows in the final product. If we were to be concerned only about financial success, we would have opted for a tried and tested food truck model. We would probably be serving Mexican-Korean fusion or gourmet grilled cheeses from a Grumman step van. We would have a generator running in the background, and would operate in the busy streets of a city. Even though I love those “typical” trucks, and see them as the bread and butter of the food truck movement, I knew that following the crowd wouldn’t get me up in the morning psyched for work, and I know that, in this scenario, I wouldn’t be finishing my day thinking” I love life”.
In striving to create this dream of a business that we can be proud of, we have had to make decisions that have caused the project to be more costly, and far more complex than similar food truck builds. One of the hardest decisions we made was to use an alternative energy source, as opposed to a generator, to power our truck. This was not to follow a fashion of sustainable living but to really do EVERYTHING we can to reduce our impact on the amazing planet that we live on. In recent years, many companies have started to market themselves as “green” or “environmentally friendly” because they know that this is appealing to consumers. Some of these companies really are doing all they can to reduce their footprint, however many are just capitalizing on what they see as a lucrative business opportunity. I don’t want Amo La Vita to be a part of this “greenwashing” phenomenon, I want to really push to be the best we can for the environment. We are not perfect, but we vow to be completely transparent with our impact and to constantly try to improve. For this reason, we chose to build our entire truck, menu and business volumes around what a solar system could handle instead of the other way around.
With the massive boom of the solar power industry in recent years, one might think that it would be easy to design a solar powered food truck, or that at least that it would be possible to use the experience of existing solar powered food truck owners to help the process, however this is not the case. I couldn’t find any how-to’s, blogs or articles about how any other solar powered food trucks set up their system. When I talked to solar fitters they all said the same thing; that they had been approached by food truck owners before who were curious about the possibilities of using solar power, but that they hadn’t gone through with the process due to the difficulties and restrictions imposed by a solar set up. Assuming that our system proves to be a success, I want to help future food truck owners by posting as much information about my system as I can. I hope to look back in a few years time and know that I helped others to reduce their impact on the world by helping to make solar powered food trucks a feasible and understandable option. Our truck has just finished having its solar system fitted and I will write a detailed blog about its design, fitting and operation in the coming weeks.
An easier way in which we could reduce our footprint was to avoid adding unnecessary garbage to the waste stream. Unlike solar, we found that this was well documented and relatively easy to achieve through the use of compostable packaging, cups and utensils. These products are readily available and not prohibitively expensive. They may hurt our bottom line a little, but we are happy to take a pay cut to feel better about our impact on the world.
We decided to dedicate time to this blog, to help others who are planning on starting a similar project, as we found that there was a lack of information on the internet regarding a lot of the questions we had. We still don’t have all the answers, but we will continue to learn and share with everyone reading this blog!
The decisions mentioned in this blog, and many others, were made so that Jo and I could ultimately be happy with the business we created. Whilst we were well aware that some of the decisions that we made didn’t necessarily make a lot of sense from an economical standpoint, we felt we would rather run the risk of financial failure than compromise on our beliefs, or ignore our ethos. I believe that some of these decisions will actually help our company in the future, but only time will tell. I hope that our expensive solar set up will equate to a $0 electric bill, and that our commitment to sustainability will become a desired commodity and unique selling point in a society that is increasingly aware of the pressures upon our natural world. I also hope that handmade pasta will prove to be a very popular product, and that people will love the quirky nature of our yellow school bus. Even if these decisions don’t make us more profitable, or even if they ultimately lead to our failure, I know that we will be happy in the knowledge that we didn’t compromise our principles, and that we will be able to say that we love what we produced, and the life that it allowed us to live.